- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 18, 2002

ANNAPOLIS State Treasurer Nancy Kopp will cast the deciding vote today when the Board of Public Works decides whether Maryland will spend $16.3 million on the second-largest land preservation effort in state history.
Mrs. Kopp sits on the powerful three-member board, which approves all major state expenditures, with Gov. Parris N. Glendening and Comptroller William Donald Schaefer. The board's meeting today is the next to the last of Mr. Glendening's eight years in office and could be contentious.
Mr. Schaefer has made no secret of his disdain for the outgoing Democratic governor, often using the twice-a-month meetings to rail against Mr. Glendening's environmental programs. The former governor and Baltimore mayor would prefer to shelve the 25,000-acre land deal in light of the state's projected budget shortfall of $1.8 billion.
"The timing is terrible and the money is significant," said Gary Thorpe, the assistant comptroller.
Mr. Glendening has been pushing for the purchase, which could top off his legacy of land preservation. During his two terms, the state has set aside 294,000 acres, permanently protecting more land from development than under all the previous governors combined.
His spokesman, Charles Porcari, described the acquisition as a "once in a lifetime opportunity" that is a perfect continuation of the governor's Smart Growth initiative protecting a large parcel of land while preserving more than 100 jobs in logging on the Eastern Shore.
"This is a purchase that we cannot afford not to do, because once it's gone, it's gone forever," Mr. Porcari said.
On Monday, Mrs. Kopp said she had not made up her mind. She did not return messages left yesterday.
In the proposed deal, the state would buy permanent easements on about 21,000 acres of forest spread across seven counties on the Eastern Shore and in Southern Maryland.
The land could not be developed. Instead, it would be purchased by a third entity, the Forestland Group, which would use the land for timbering.
The Conservation Fund, a national environmental group, is negotiating the deal with the land's current owner, Glatfelter Pulp Wood Co.
Under an agreement finalized yesterday, the Conservation Fund would buy outright about 3,700 acres abutting other state land for $6.7 million, said Department of Natural Resources spokesman John Surrick. That portion of the deal was negotiated as a response to lawmakers' concerns about the state budget, Mr. Surrick said.
Glendening administration officials say development pressures in the state make it unlikely that another land preservation deal with Glatfelter could be consummated in the future if this one is deferred now.
Mrs. Kopp was a Montgomery County delegate to the General Assembly until she was elected treasurer early this year. She is generally expected to vote according to the legislature's will, although not bound to do so.
She said Monday that many lawmakers have contacted her about the deal, as have the state's major environmental groups and residents.
The lawmakers, she said, are split on it, although Sen. Barbara Hoffman, the chairman of the Budget and Taxation Committee, and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., are against it.
Members of the House Appropriations Committee voted 19-5 yesterday to advise the Board of Public Works to defer the land acquisition.

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